Saturday.

It’s a sunny day in Chicago today. It’s windy, but the temperature is in the low 50s. It fits within April expectations. Tomorrow we’re suppose to get rain, freezing rain, and much colder temperatures, only to return to today’s type of weather on Monday.

It’s all normal for April in Chicago.

After writing two cranky blog entries last night I relaxed in front of the television watching an episode of “Star Trek: Voyager” (I’m currently on season two) and then I watched the first episode of the fourth season of “Black Mirror”. Earl doesn’t like “Black Mirror” but I enjoy the series. It’s geeky, it’s thought provoking, and it’s eerie enough to keep me on the edge (at times) but not horrifying to give me nightmares.

The episode I watched last night was called “U.S.S. Callister”. The trailer made it look like a parody of Star Trek but it was so much more. I won’t spoil it (even though it’s been out for a while) but I found the story clever.

I love geeky things.

Exploration.

Event Horizon Telescope collaboration et al. via National Science Foundation

On Wednesday we saw the first photo of a Black Hole, a force in the Universe so powerful that not even light can escape from it. Before this photograph no one even knew what a Black Hole looked like. Might I add, this photograph is of a Black Hole over 55 million-light years from Earth, in a distant galaxy far outside the Milky Way. It takes eight minutes for the light to travel for the Sun to our planet. This Black Hole has a mass 6.5 billion times bigger than the Sun.

Can we stop for just a moment and talk about the fact that despite all the nonsense going on in the world, in particular the United States, despite the number of people clamoring to eschew science, critical thought, and/or intelligent debate, and despite the hype of people that believe the Earth is flat or that vaccinations are bad for our civilization, we still live in an age where we have figured out how to photograph something 55 million light years away from us? I mean, how awesome is that?

Flipping through the various news source on the subject I did run across on idiotic Slate article where the author complained about the photo being fuzzy and uninteresting.

Uninteresting for the uninitiated, I say. I find this photograph and the science, determination, and hard work behind it to make it happen, to be absolutely fascinating. Ever since the Space Shuttle fleet was grounded I’ve felt like many in the United States no longer cared about space exploration. The drive that took us to the stars has been replaced by Tweets, Selfies, and Orange Buffoons. This photograph of a Black Hole in galaxy Messier 87, 55 million light years away from Earth, gives me hope. Hope that we are still moving toward a Star Trek type age where poverty and war are a thing of the past and exploration of the stars makes us a better species.

Forget the selfies, bring on more photos of wonders in the universe. The possibilities are endless.

Voyager.

I’ve been rewatching “Star Trek: Voyager”. I didn’t regularly watch the show back in the mid 90s, so this is my first time watching the series from episode one to its end. I just finished up season one today. I’m looking forward to season two.

Even though I’m not intimately familiar with the series, I do admit, without hesitation, that Captain Kathryn Janeway is my favorite of the Star Trek captains. I’ve always admired her grit, her dedication to science, and her determination. I know many Star Trek fanboys never liked the idea of a female captain, but I’ve never had a problem with it. Even back when “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” came out, I enjoyed the brief scene of Captain Sinclair of the U.S.S. Saratoga. No nonsense, that’s what Starfleet needs.

One starship captain I did not enjoy, though she was seen for a very short time on bootleg videos, was the original captain of the U.S.S. Voyager, Captain Nicole Janeway. Played by Geneviève Bujold for only the first two days of filming of the pilot of Star Trek: Voyager, it was agreed that Federation space was not for Bujold and she left the series. A few short scenes on YouTube are all the exist of the experience.

Kate Mulgrew is a natural for the role.

I’m not a fan of the current Star Trek series, “Star Trek: Discovery”. They lost me at the end of episode two when Captain Georgiou met her demise. From there the show turned into a Mary Sue* affair taking place in a universe with way too much strife. One of the things that I’ve always loved about Star Trek is that it showed a time when human society evolved into something more compassionate, driven by learning, exploration, and seeking to better oneself. The Star Trek universe has always been my escape from whatever we have today, especially in this Age of Chaos, and watching a bunch of strife and chaos in the Star Trek universe in the rebooted movie series and “Discovery” has held little of my interest.

But Captain Janeway and U.S.S. Voyager? I love it. I’m happy the series is available on Netflix and I’m looking forward to watching every episode in original broadcast order.

I might even venture out to a Star Trek convention this year and see if I can shake Kate Mulgrew’s hand. I love nuances she brought to Captain Janeway.

Shazam!

The family got together to see Shazam! tonight. I haven’t traditionally been a huge fan of the DC movies, but this was very, very good. We had a lot of fun.

I didn’t spot any Easter Eggs from the 70s show; if you see any please let me know what I should have spotted.

One of my favorites from the DC Universe. I liked it better than Wonder Woman and Aquaman. I look forward to any sequels.

Real ness.

So Linus Torvalds, the “inventor” (I use this term loosely) of Linux, the operating system that runs 70% of the Internet, as well as a whole bunch of other things like Android phones (that’s a really bad description of Linux), really dislikes Social Media. In a recent article by NBC News, he talks about the anonymity behind Social Media, and how people really wouldn’t say what they say online if they had to say it face to face and using their real name.

He definitely has a point. I’ve read things from bots that would make your hair curl. I always blame the bots because I really try hard to believe that semi-intelligent human beings really aren’t as stupid as they portray themselves to be on the likes Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and the like.

If you follow me on social media, you’d know that I indeed use my real name in most instances. There’s a few places where I use a pseudonym because I like to have an alter-ego once in a while, but I still try to act like a rational human being.

Why last night I suggested that someone build windmills near the White House to test Lord Marmalade’s latest lie that “the noise from windmills cause cancer”. To disprove Mr. Torvalds theory about saying things behind a curtain of anonymity, the real life with real names folks in the White House are defending this outrageous claim by Herr Orange Whippy Wig and saying there’s no evidence denying that noise from windmills cause cancer.

Science, it’s not just for the dorks.

I do agree that Social Media in the United States would be a better experience for all involved if the social media corporations forced validation of users and the use of real names in wild discourse. I limit this to the United States because there are folks that live in other countries who must use social media to communicate with others that are trying to flee said country. Anonymity is very important in some respects, but not when you’re shouting at someone.

Keep it real. Use your name. Take responsibility for your words.

Streams.

So we’ve cut the cable cord (again) in our merry little home. Technically, we’ve cut the cord from a telecommunications company, but AT&T did everything they could to make sure U-verse works just like cable. The signal was horribly compressed, we had a DVR of questionable userability, and we were served with many channels that we would never watch just so we could get the channels we wanted to watch.

Before moving to Chicago we had cut the cord and had survived quite well with streaming services. Living here in the big city we have even more options over our OTA (Over-The-Air) antenna because we are actually close to broadcast locations. We have a very small “U” shaped antenna, about as thick as a dinner napkin, hanging near the television and we are able to receive nearly 50 channels. The networks are gorgeous; there’s no signal compression at all and it works amazingly well. We have no need for a DVR as anything we’d want to “record” we can actually just download through the streaming services we enjoy, including Hulu and Netflix. Plus, Amazon Prime Video comes with our existing Prime subscription, so we have just about everything covered.

I was hoping Apple would announce something that would take our breath away when it came to reimagining the television experience, but from what I could garner from the keynote, they’ve just expanded the TV app to include a little more data and they’ll be offering another subscription service in an already crowded market.

Not exactly the approach I was looking for.

One thing that we’ll definitely not miss are the cable news channels. We’ve both decided that we are completely and utterly burned out on the constant chaos coming out of Washington, D.C. and the news channels are doing everything they can to stoke the fire. They want to continue the ad revenue and pull a chunk from our cable subscription service to justify their existence.

We’ll be quite content going a la carte and on our own terms.

Creativity.

So I started this blog entry, writing about today’s Apple keynote event at the Steve Jobs Theatre at Apple Headquarters (“the Spaceship”). I was going to list each of the services Apple announced today and my associated thoughts. It was all to be positive, because I really enjoyed the keynote today.

But I couldn’t bring myself to sound like a tech pundit, because that’s not what I am. I’m one of the Crazy Ones. My LinkedIn Profile starts with two words: “What box?”. I don’t think outside of the box, I can’t even find a box. I don’t see the big picture because I’m not looking in the same direction and I’m probably not even in the same room. It’s amazing that I have worked for several Fortune 500 companies during my career because I really subscribe to the whole “Think Different” philosophy. And this is something I’m proud of.

What struck me about the Apple keynote today was the genuine feeling of passion. The artists, the creative ones, even the ones presenting today, all seemed so very passionate about what Apple was showing the world today. A new way for a credit card to work. A new way to read your favorite magazine. New ways to find your favorite online games and new ways to find your TV shows, all on your own terms. Apple’s huge push of privacy is a welcomed change of pace in this ever growing economy where the user is the product, not the consumer. Apple doesn’t want your information, Apple doesn’t need your information, and Apple has no way of sharing your information. That is awesome. We need more of that in this digital age.

Am I going to sign up for an AppleCard? As a guy that uses ApplePay everywhere he can, you bet your sweet bippy I am. I’ve already asked the CTA when I’ll be able to add my Ventra (transit) card to my Apple Wallet. I’m already reading my favorite magazines in Apple News+ and I’m really looking forward to the original content Apple will bring to the world in Apple TV+. I was moved when I saw Tim Cook tear up when he hugged Oprah after her speech during the keynote today.

Such passion. In the speech, in the reaction, in the creativity.

We need more passion for creativity in the world. Be a Crazy One.

I’ve started editing videos on my iPad Pro today. Ten years ago I never thought I’d be using an iPad Pro to shoot, edit, and share video, but here we are. Technology isn’t only about spreadsheets and word documents and slides. It’s about what we want it to be about.

Let your creativity flow.

Interruption.

One of the “runaway conditions” of trends in the latest technology is how we as users are so willing to allow ourselves to be interrupted with regularity, even expectation. Last week I was in an all-day video conference at work. There were eight participants and we are scattered all over the country. Part of the meeting included the a project leader sharing their screen for all to see, mainly so we could review various subjects via a Powerpoint presentation. I couldn’t help but notice the person sharing their screen had a notification pop up on their screen every time they received an email, and honestly, they receive a lot of email.

Personally, I could never get any work under those conditions. As a viewer and passive participant in the moment, I found the popups maddening. I couldn’t imagine working on a laptop configured that way.

Many folks in business live and die by their email. I’ve met my share of users that manage their business (and probably personal) lives via Inbox. They store everything in the Inbox and it’s usually overflowing with thousands of messages. They live in a reactionary paradigm, awaiting the next email to take action.

This got me to thinking about notifications in general. There’s quite a few people at work that think nothing of seeing “In A Meeting” or “Giving A Presentation” on my work Skype status and sending me a message that says, “I see you’re in a meeting, please ping me when you’re done”. When I’m leading a meeting you can usually tell this is happened because I start stumbling and losing my train of thought for a few moments and then I have to stammer a couple of times before resuming my train of thought. I have been in countless meetings where this has happened, and not only when I’m doing the presenting or speaking. We allow ourselves to be interrupted and we have software that encourages us to be interrupted. With Microsoft’s Skype for Business (our main chat platform at work), I’m either “Available”, “Busy”, or on “Do Not Disturb”. I can still be reached by Skype message with the first two settings, the second setting halts messages getting to me completely.

If I were to take this whole “I know you’re busy but please ping me when you’re done” thought process to the real world, it’d be like walking into a conference room with a bunch of suits around a conference table, donuts in the corner, and a presentation in process, and someone busting through the front door to say, “I know there’s a meeting in progress, but J.P. please come see me when you have a moment”. We’d never dream of doing that in real life, why would we do this in the electronic world?

We’ve had answering machines for decades, why haven’t we built an “answering machines” mechanism into our chat programs? Imagine a Skype setting where we could indicate “Please leave a message”. The user could then send us an IM as normal but it would be held in a queue until I either changed my status to something a bit more receptive or I decided to close Skype, in which I would get a notification that I had messages waiting in queue.

Some may counter, “well, that’s why we have email”, and this is perfectly valid point. However, as we move from overflowing email mailboxes to “instant messaging”, folks have an expectation to use Instant Messaging and to get a response instantly.

Sometimes I like to let them simmer.

This trend of active interruption isn’t limited to Skype or work. All of the social media platforms have built apps that will notify you as often and as quickly as possible. “Here’s a tweet you missed”! “Your friend has updated his Facebook status”! “Two people liked your Instagram photo”!

Twitter is notorious for this; the iOS app will indicate you have activity pending review by you only to say, “Your friends Gertrude and Finster have liked a photo posted by someone you don’t know” or “Trump sent a tweet!”

This is why any social media apps on my phone have all notifications turned off (and I have significantly reduced the number of social media apps on my phone to begin with). No little red highlighted number next to the icon, no popups, no toaster messages, nothing. I never know when someone waves at me without actually taking a few moments, on my own time, on my own turf, and logging into the site to see what’s happened since I did the same on my own time and own turf.

I own the way I am contacted, I don’t let others call the shots. This has done much to restore my sanity.

I’m currently working on a personal growth project this weekend cleaning the cruft out of all my social media avenues. How many folks do I follow on Instagram that post nothing but selfies? Do I really want to be “friends” on Facebook with someone that was recommended through an algorithm? Do I really know anything about them? On how many social networks do I need to follow this inspirational speaker? How many groups do I need to belong to?

It’s all about focus. Technology should not dilute our focus. It should help us focus. I’m still all for connecting with others but we should all do it on our own terms, not as dictated by corporations that are monetizing our data and trying to get us to engage with their platform as often as possible.

We need to take control of our technological use habits. And we don’t need a notification to tell us to make it happen.